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Fanning touts importance of completing education
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Nickie Fanning tells Rotarians on Thursday how she earned her college degree later in life after becoming pregnant at 16. - photo by Bill Zechman

Pregnant at 16, then married, then raising two little sons. No time for education, so she dropped out of high school.

Nickie Fanning’s early biography is not all that unusual.   

But what makes her really exceptional is the clear-sighted determination and courage she put into to her return to education, leading to graduation with highest honors from a four-year institution.

In a mid-life turning point, Nickie decided to enroll at Motlow State Community College despite her anxieties and insecurities being an “older” student among many 18- and 19-year-olds. She earned her associates degree with a goal of becoming a literature teacher. Moving on to Athens State University in Alabama, she graduated near the top of her class and then hired on as a completion coach at Motlow’s Fayetteville campus.

 “My first day in class [at Motlow] was hair-raising” as a self-perceived misfit with the younger students, Fanning told The Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday. But those “younger students” proved to be very welcoming and supportive, and she quickly adapted to the college culture and began to excel as an academic and community-service leader.  

As co-speaker at Noon Rotary, Motlow president Dr. Michael Torrence described the powerful growth of the college and the job-readiness of its graduates.  

Citing the nationally recognized and widely copied Mechatronics program, Torrence noted that the approximately 500 students who have completed the curriculum have enjoyed a 100 percent job placement. 

It’s common for those graduates to go from their two-year Motlow experience to enter the workplace earning “$40,000 or $50,000 a year as 20- or 21-year-olds,” Lane Yoder, executive director of the Motlow College Foundation, said in a later interview recording for public radio 91.3 WCPI.

Torrence emphasized the best resource for prospective high-tech, high-paying industries is a trained, certified and ready-to-go workforce.  

Torrence said he is not waiting for new and existing businesses and industries to find Motlow.   Instead, he is proactively going out to them, “knocking on doors” to create openings that may not have been conceived before the current onrush of new economic opportunities.  

Public radio 91.3 WCPI will broadcast a half-hour interview with Fanning and Yoder this week. The weekly “Focus” program airs Tuesday at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 1 a.m.